Drake’s latest album, “More Life,” came out during the final weeks of my study abroad experience. As I listened to the songs while walking to and from class, I realized that Drake must have created this album with me in mind, in celebration of a semester well spent. Drake’s album is full of dancehall and afrobeat rhythms, he features British artists, and sprinkles in some Jamaican Patois. So here is a summary of my semester as an IES Health Practice & Policy student in London and Oxford, England and Kingston, Jamaica.
“I switch flow like I switch time zone.”
I arrived in London on no sleep, so I wouldn’t say I switched time zones as gracefully as I would have hoped. I made it to my dorm room and immediately joined other IES students on a tour of the neighborhood. Our first week of orientation was draining but super informative—I could tell I was going to love London already. My favorite part of orientation week was our bus tour around London, hitting all the most famous tourist destinations and concluding with a ride on the London Eye.
“Only child taking care of his mother as health worsens and bills double.”
from “Lose You”
My coursework focused primarily on social issues that impact population health, specifically the impact on non-communicable diseases. My peers and I also learned more in depth about the healthcare systems of European nations, especially the UK’s National Health System. We often took tours of the city to look for aspects of London life that could negatively or positively impact population health. The lyric above from Drake’s “Lose You” refers to medical debt, debt that adds up due to healthcare costs. This is uniquely an American issue, something I was stunned to learn while abroad.
“I’ve done so much in my short time and still there’s more to do.”
from “More Life”
My first few months flew by! I loved my classes, my dorm, and the city itself. I really feel like I got a great taste of London, visiting lots of museums, parks, and coffee shops. I made incredible friends and met wonderful professors. Especially when my family visited, I packed in lots of exploring into a short amount of time. Yet I still had a long, long bucket list to complete before leaving. My two close friends and I consolidated a list of must-dos for our final weeks, including fish and chips, which we did on our last night together in London.
“Dream about work in my sleep.”
Finals hit me by surprise so I had to put my city explorations on hold for a bit. I spent lots of time on homework that week, writing essays and studying for our final exams. I’m sure all of my fellow students would agree we were dreaming about our presentations in our sleep. Even though that week was hectic, I’m happy I was pressured to squeeze my work into a shorter amount of time so I could spend more time wandering around London. I knew I had to leave the lovely city soon so I wanted to balance studying with exploring.
“We need to forward to the islands and get you gold, no spray tans.”
It was so hard to say goodbye to my new favorite city, but at least I had Jamaica to look forward to. I was glad to have our week-long trip to Kingston following our semester in London because it helped to buffer the reverse culture shock. We spent the first few days immersing ourselves in Jamaican culture, visiting markets and beaches and museums. We took a few classes at the University of the West Indies School of Nursing and toured the school’s lab. The rest of the week we shadowed through a rotation of two clinics and one non-governmental organization. I really enjoyed seeing the Jamaican healthcare system at work and it gave me a stronger appreciation for community-based programs. Finally on our last day, the sun came out full force and we spent the afternoon outdoors together by our backyard pool.
“Book a plane home then I hesitate.”
from “Since Way Back”
All of a sudden, it was my last day of study abroad. I didn’t anticipate loving Jamaica’s people, weather, food, healthcare, and beaches as much as I did. I hadn’t planned saying goodbye to the amazing friends I had made. I didn’t know what it would be like when I got back to the United States. I didn’t want my study abroad story to end.
“Me and being broke finally broke up.”
I do miss London a lot and there are little things I notice each day about the States that I didn’t notice before my study abroad trip. The best part is being back with my family and friends. Plus, now I can start reviving my bank account after a semester of indulging. I splurged on gifts for family and friends (and myself) and a few trips—I traveled to Paris and Barcelona, and I traveled around England, too. It’s nice to finally see some money coming into my bank account. This summer, I am working as an office intern and a student nurse.